The Centre’s announcement that all adults will be eligible for the booster dose of Covid vaccines has made private hospitals hopeful that the large stocks in their disposal for which there are not many takers will find use.
However, many hospitals say they would not procure fresh doses before forming a clearer idea about how the announcement affects the demand.
The Union health ministry on Friday announced that everyone above 18 will be eligible for the booster — or the precautionary third — dose of Covid vaccines from Sunday, April 10, provided they have completed nine months from their second dose.
People aged between 18 and 60 have to pay for the third dose, which will be administered from private hospitals.
Most private hospitals in Kolkata are saddled with thousands of doses of Covid vaccines, which are lying unused and nearing expiration dates. Several hospitals said on Friday that they were now hopeful that the doses would find takers.
Medica Superspecialty Hospital has about 3.5 lakh doses of Covid vaccine.
“We have mostly Covishield and some Covaxin doses. Most of the Covishield doses will expire in July and Covaxin doses in May. We hope the latest announcement will help us use some of the stocks,” said Alok Roy, chairman of Medica.
“We had expected high footfall after the government allowed vaccination of the 15-17 age group, but most of them were inoculated in government facilities,” said Roy.
Medica, he said, is barely having 60 recipients daily.
The RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences has 1,600 doses of Covaxin which cannot be used after May and 1,400 doses of Covishield which will expire in July.
“We are expecting the Covishield doses will get exhausted. Our main concern is Covaxin, for which the demand is very low. We’ll procure fresh stocks only after seeing the demand,” said R. Venkatesh, regional director, east, Narayana Health, which runs the RN Tagore Hospital.
“We got some relief after Kolkata Municipal Corporation had swapped with us doses that were nearing the expiration date,” said Venkatesh.
The hospital is having barely 20 recipients every day on an average.
In late February and early March, the KMC had swapped 16,000 doses of Covid vaccines, which were to expire in March, with private hospitals.
Despite that, the hospitals that had stocked up on doses expecting high demand were struggling to exhaust the shots.
Peerless Hospital has 8,550 doses of Covishield and around 1,200 of Covaxin.
“We are now having around 20 recipients every day. We are expecting the footfall to rise significantly from Sunday,” said Sudipta Mitra, chief executive of the hospital.
The AMRI Hospitals group has 8,000 doses. Most of the doses are Covaxin, which will expire in June.
“We were concerned that the doses would expire because of low demand. We are hoping that the vaccines will now find use. If the demand rises then we can procure more,” said Rupak Barua, group CEO of AMRI.
Public health experts and doctors have been saying that those who are eligible for the precautionary dose should take it because that can prevent another fresh wave.
At present, the third dose is administered to priority groups — healthcare workers, frontline workers and to those aged above 60.